We could go on at length about the 20-odd musical acts at this weekend's Irish Fest in West Palm Beach. Or we could talk about the Irish dancers or the array of fresh-cooked Gaelic dishes -- or even the prospect of dressing like a leprechaun (we can only hope the Rice brothers are reading this). But your mind was made up the moment you read the words Irish and fest: "Hmm... beer." Yeah, you're real hard to figure out.
The annual party celebrating all things Irish is now in its 11th year, and there's no shortage of stuff to see, hear, eat, and drink. Actually, there's even more this time around, with an expanded Dublin pub tent (Bunratty Meade, anyone?), arts and crafts (paintings, linens), a kids' area (games, rides, face-painting), and 2,000 pounds of corned beef and cabbage at the food court (ask your doctor first, lest you get an Ulster ulcer).
Billed as "Florida's Largest St. Patrick's Day Party," Irish Fest goes beyond the run-of-the-mill, paint-it-green-and-call-it-Irish event. In fact, many of the items for sale are things you can't find locally, festival organizer Sheila Hynes notes. "There are about 40 Irish gift shops coming in from across the nation," she says. "The items they're selling -- Irish linen, Irish crystals, jams, and teas -- you mostly won't find around here."
Ditto for the live bands and dance groups, most of which are from Ireland -- like the Fenians (Sunday's headliner) -- or other countries -- like Australia's Brother (Saturday's headliner). Local bands include Celtic Bridge, Avalon, and Hot Rod, the Scottish-born Rod Stewart impersonator. "The music is different this year," Hynes says. "As the evening hours increase, so does the volume. We want to show younger people that Irish music isn't just your mother's Irish ballad. It's everything from U2 to the Chieftains."
Irish Fest 2005 takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Meyer Amphitheatre (corner of Flagler and Datura streets, West Palm Beach). Tickets cost $12 to $15. Children under 14 are admitted free (just keep 'em away from the booze). Call 954-946-1093, or visit www.irishflorida.org. -- Jason Budjinski
Before it's Illegal
2004 was a bad year for American liberals, what with all those lost elections and so-called "mandates" to run roughshod over any idea that's remotely progressive. But it is the nation's gay and lesbian community that felt the full brunt of compassionate conservatism, as the reddest of the red states began banning same-sex marriage faster than Dubya can say "nucular family." And while Florida did go red last November (reportedly for real this time), we can take pride that Broward County stuck to its liberal guns -- something especially fortunate for the folks at Pride South Florida, organizer of the annual Pridefest celebration at Holiday Park (Federal Highway and NE Eighth Street, Fort Lauderdale). With dozens of entertainers and vendors promoting the good cause, it's not the kind of event you'd want to hold in some Podunk North Florida town. Performers include vocalists (like CeCe Peniston), female impersonators (like Alfred Lewis), bands (Flamingo Freedom Band), dance groups (the RoughRiders of South Florida), and DJs (Marc Scott), to name a few. Pridefest takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets cost $5 to $8. Call 954-478-4587, or visit www.pridesouthflorida.org. -- Jason Budjinski
Is it spring break already?
Why, yes, it is. How do we know? Because girls in bikinis have started preening on the stage at Tarpon Bend (200 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale) every Thursday at 11 p.m. to compete for the title of Miss Hawaiian Tropic Spring Break. With the exception of St. Patrick's Day, March 17, the contest runs through April 7. Judges include "local celebrities, civic leaders, firemen, police, and military personnel," and although it's nice if the ladies have rock-hard abs and ample boobage, we hear that "personality" is a big factor in the judging. Contestants should just remember that the skimpier the bikini, the louder their personalities will be projected across the room. Weekly winners go home with $600 in fresh greenbacks and return to compete in the finals on April 7. Call 954-922-5052, or visit www.tropicbeauty.com. -- Deirdra Funcheon
Green Beers, Green Bears, Green Chickens
At first, it didn't make much sense that the WildFyre Society was asking guests to wear something green to "Blazing Sun XII," its annual St. Patrick's Day Beach Picnic at Haulover Beach (10800 Collins Ave., Miami Beach). Why? Because WildFyre is a nudist organization. But the e-vite clarifies: Clothes are optional, or you can "decorate yourself with something green, even if it's just beads, body paint, toenail polish, or sunblock!" The event is open to nonmembers, and you're encouraged to bring friends -- preferably gay, male friends, since WildFyre is for gay men. The picnic is free if you bring a potluck item, although you are welcome to make a donation to benefit South Florida Free Beaches/Florida Naturist Association, the group that makes sure Haulover Beach stays clothing-optional. Bring some bucks, so that you can go buck. The event lasts from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with lunch around 1. RSVP by visiting www.wildfyresociety.org. -- Deirdra Funcheon